Top 2019 trends in PR, marketing, AI, reputation management, engagement

Trends 2020

Join host Sheelagh Caygill as she explores the obvious - and less obvious - trends and influences in communications, PR, and marketing. Also explored are writing and upping your game as a creator of prose. In this essential listen, she interviews senior comms pros and thought leaders to reveal insights you can incorporate into your work.

While you’re here listen to an episode of our podcast. This interview is with Canadian AI specialist Jean Valin. 

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Diane Bégin, VP, ruckus Digital/APEX PR, Toronto.
A key trend that we’re going to continue to feel the effects of in 2019 is more resistance to traditional marketing approaches – with customers instead responding to enhanced overall experiences.

Data also tells us that individuals are increasingly blurring the lines between paid, earned, shared and owned media – meaning cross-disciplinary or integrated approaches matter more than ever.

Still, our most recent CMO Lab research shows that a surprising 53 per cent of CMOs haven’t changed their marketing approaches in the last few years. With the environment changing quickly, we’ll see the customer winning as more marketers will have to evolve to avoid becoming irrelevant to their audiences.

Be ready for reputation management risks

Fiona Fenwick, Leadership Coach & Mentor,, Nelson, New Zealand.
I see increases year on year of company and organisational focus on increased engagement with their stakeholders and readiness for what they think may be their risk factor in terms of reputation management.

However, the effectiveness remains to be proven. Every day another company or individual is held to account for underestimating the value placed on honesty and integrity – the basics for effective reputation management and communication in general. So, in light of that, I see 2019 being another busy year of ‘fire fighting’ for communicators and reputation managers!

Seek authenticity when embracing new business practices

Martin Fenwick, Change Agent, theCHANGEfactor, Auckland, New Zealand. The trends remain the same but are badged differently. The big buzz is agile, but like so many before it the industry has taken to training and certification in it, which corporations are lapping up . . . and getting little.

Agile is primarily a mindset and a structural leadership shift but that’s not as hard as training a few folks is it. So the thing to look for in 2019 is agile that is agile and not pseudo-agile.

Artificial Intelligence and PR – it’s do or die time

Emma Leech, Director of Marketing & Advancement, Loughborough University, U.K.
The last few years has seen a real convergence of disciplines as traditional barriers blur and PR, communications, and marketing become increasingly aligned with a sharper focus on content and narrative than ever before.

The rise of AI is ubiquitous and 2019 will be do, or die for practitioners who’ve not yet engaged with the digital revolution. The social web has leveled the playing field and the old gatekeepers are no more. Telling a good story is no longer enough – PR will be judged on its ability to harness social, improve search, cut across channels and deliver tangible impacts on brand and reputation.

Technology will be all pervasive in our industry over the next few years, bringing with it the need for new skill-sets around data and analytics. Traditional PR skills will evolve as video continues to gain traction and online influencer and advocacy activity will move increasingly centre stage.

The advocacy piece will also, I believe, spark a renaissance in internal communications as PR and communications professionals seek to mobilize brands and humanize organisations through the people they employ. 2019 will see huge changes for PR – hold onto your hats!

Coming to grips with AI

Martin Waxman, Digital Social Strategist and Trainer, Toronto.
In 2019, I believe communications professionals should make a commitment to go beyond the buzzwords and learn about what artificial intelligence is and does. They need to understand the various data types, what constitutes data bias, and the difference between narrow AI, which is single purpose and what will affect us most in the short-term, and artificial general intelligence, which is important, but longer-term consideration.

This won’t be easy as it involves learning to define and grasp the concepts. We’ll have to overcome our fear of math to gain a basic understanding of statistical predictions, how AI finds patterns in data, and how to spot identify spurious correlations and results. Only then, will be be able to start making informed contributions, by asking questions around ethics, privacy and workplace disruption, when our organizations consider adopting AI.

Refocusing on diversity, equity, inclusion, and bias

Bruce Mayhew, Corporate Trainer, Speaker, & Coach, Bruce Mayhew Consulting, Toronto.
I don’t know there is a way we work as leaders or coaches that is changing, although leaders are learning the importance of embracing soft-skills as a way to become better motivators and/or coaches.

That said, I suggest the areas we all need to explore more are around diversity, equity, inclusion and bias (especially unconscious bias) . . . and also racism, sexism and other isms.

These concerns are re-emerging as important challenges in our society. And while some headway has been made, the last few years have shown us just how much further we have to go.

At the same time, individuals and organizations are thankfully under more pressure to be in line with not only many laws but also social and corporate values. Unfortunately they are not always. So, both coaching and leadership have seen more ‘discussion’ on this topic.

Although they work in very different ways, coaches and leaders are there to bring out the best in others, how they do their work, how they interact with others. Their role is also to work with people about how they view themselves. These are topics that still gets conveniently ignored far too often. But, as I said above I see these conversations happening more frequently as we move forward so, we as coaches and leaders have to prepare ourselves for these difficult discussions and/or difficult explorations.

Personalized learning and development

Damian McAlonan, Managing Director, The Boost Partnership, London
To truly work in an engaged environment people need to feel valued, independent and part of a team. So at The Boost Partnership we’ve predicted (and planned for) an emerging trend of personalization within learning and development.

Just imagine a personalized learning plan/pathway for each employee that’s tailored to personal career aspirations within an organisation. The result is people feel immediately invested in, there’s something to work toward, and ultimately employees are more engaged with an organization.

We’re looking forward to planning with our clients for 2019 and as always welcome anyone who wants to jump on board with us!

The democratization of media production is a double-edged sword

Marvin Polis, Media Producer, Communication Consultant, Stimulant Strategies & Productions, Edmonton, Canada.
In 2019 and beyond, I see the democratization of media production continuing at a blinding pace. As production gear continues to become astonishingly better and inexpensive, doors will continue to open for people who want to enter the media profession and for organizations who want to do storytelling beyond the print medium.

Today, we have a perfect storm of inexpensive equipment like video cameras and audio recorders that are making podcasting and video productions no more expensive than publishing for the written word. And with internet platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, SoundCloud, the Apple Podcast app (any many others too numerous to mention), we have an outstanding way of distributing the final productions. Remember, it was only about 15 years ago that a professional video camera cost more than $100,000, a professional editing system was about $500,000 and we distributed our productions via snail mail on VHS tapes or DVDs.

However, this democratization is a double-edged sword.

Just because someone can afford a camera and a microphone, it does not mean they are a filmmaker or radio (podcast) producer.

I acknowledge that natural talent does exist. One of the greatest songwriters of all time, Paul McCartney, is said to have never learned how to scribe music. But most people need some combination of talent, aptitude, training and mentoring to be good at their craft.

Instagram Stories an invaluable marketing channel

Kristen Ruby, President, Ruby Media Group, Westchester, N.Y.C.
Instagram stories – Publishers are creating episodic content for Instagram series in the same way producers create packaged content for traditional television.

This will create an abundance of new jobs and opportunities – the creation of graphics/ video production for IG stories, ad sales of sponsored content of these stories, partnership development of IG stories, branded influencer marketing of IG Stories, and producers for IG story series production.

Increased photography budgets – If you want to compete in a saturated Instagram market place, you need a high volume of fresh content, which comes in the format of new branded images. Sure, you can take some of these yourself on an iPhone, but if you want to make your feed stand out, you will most likely need to heavily invest in a photographer quarterly for branded assets which can be used on social media platforms.

More dollars are being allocated for photographers – in fact, there is a resurgence right now of hiring traditional photographers for Instagram marketing because the creative is key, and photographers working alongside social media marketers can help create a professional agency appearance on social platforms. They must work together.

In-house digital production capabilities – More agencies are creating in-house video production studio offerings to stay competitive.

Instagram Pop-Up Experiences

Marketers are taking a cue from the success of pop-up experiences from The Museum of Ice Cream to Rose Mansion and they are figuring out how to create these Instagrammable experiences on a micro-level for small to mid-size business customers for branded activations.

As publicists and social media marketers, we are asking: “Where do people want to take photos?” prior to launching a new menu or even a product launch. Figuring out how to make something more Instagrammable for social sharing is now being built into the initial business plan, which is a major shift in the industry not seen before. The emphasis is on doing this earlier and earlier. If it’s not memorable enough to share on social media platforms, did it ever even exist?

The rise of the internal influencer marketing programs

Josh Steimle, Executive Coach, Speaker, Author, and Influencer, China and U.S.A.
For anyone following news about the influencer marketing industry it’s hard to miss scandals about influencers who are faking numbers and networks (like Facebook). The problem with influencer marketing as we’ve come to know it is that it is outsourced, and whenever you outsource you lose control.

I believe this is why in 2019 and beyond we’ll see many businesses take the road less traveled, which will be to create internal influencer marketing programs, especially involving key executives.

In other words, CEOs and other executives will increasingly become the faces of the companies they represent, as opposed to a random influencer whom everybody knows is only doing this because they’re getting a big payday. Not that there isn’t a place for influencer marketing, but it’s a step removed in terms of credibility and authenticity.

But when you put a founder or CEO into a position of thought leadership, producing content to promote the company, then there is an assumption this person really cares. If that executive doesn’t have a highly polished personal brand that can actually work to a company’s advantage.

Chatbot builders

This is the age of personalized marketing, and consumers expect a one-on-one experience with brands. Of course, it’s got to be genuine.

Larry Kim, founder of the chatbot MobileMoney, says: “Marketers and communications pros are looking at what problems chatbots can solve. And they’re dreaming of the day when AI-powered chatbots will be infused with personality, and customers won’t be able to differentiate between a human being and a bot. That day is nearer than most people realize!”

More and more marketers are taking advantage of messenger marketing. Used well, it can significantly increase sales and also saves both the company and customer time. This makes absolute marketing sense, given that Facebook Messenger messages have an open rate of 80%, and a click-through rate of 20%, especially when using chat blasting.

How to choose a feature-rich chatbot

Shop and research carefully before investing in a chatbot builder. Ideally, marketers should look for something that is easy to use, offers plenty of support, and is cost-effective. Some chatbots include tutorials on Facebook Messenger Marketing on how to how to create powerful chatbot applications for Facebook Messenger, without writing any code!

The best chatbots include valuable add-ons, including: unusual ways to build a huge contact list on Facebook Messenger; how to blast Facebook Messenger contacts with chat blasts, how to use a Facebook Messenger chatbot to book appointments or answer common customer inquiries; and how to integrate a Facebook Messenger chatbot with Facebook “Send to Messenger” ad campaigns.

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